Teaching English in Florence, Italy: Alumni Q&A with Amelia Perri

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What is your citizenship?
United States

What city and state are you from?
Farmington, CT

How old are you? 

What is your education level and background?
Bachelor's Degree

Have you traveled abroad in the past?
I never left the country before this!  

What sparked your interest in going to teach English in Italy?                
I received my undergraduate degree in secondary social studies education so teaching is my passion. However, it was always my dream to travel. Thus, putting two and two together, I decided to teach English abroad.

I wanted to see and explore the places I read and studied about. So I worked hard, saved money, and bought a one way ticket to Europe.

What were some of your concerns before teaching abroad in Italy?
Finding a job and financial security.

What did your friends and family think about you moving and teaching English in Italy? 
My friends were supportive, my family was apprehensive and concerned.

Why did you decide to get TEFL certified and choose International TEFL Academy? 
I knew in order to get a credible job teaching English, I needed to become TEFL certified.

Being the type-A researcher that I am, I read up on countless programs that offer TEFL Certification and found International TEFL Academy to be the best. Their reviews, credentials, course structure, and benefits were the best fit for what I was looking for.

Which TEFL certification course did you take?
Online TEFL Class.

Teach English in Italy TEFL

How did you like the course?
I loved the online TEFL course, material covered and instructors. Every question was answered immediately and the feedback was incredible.

The relationship between instructor and student was not solely virtual correspondence, they truly invested their time and effort into the class. I really enjoyed the group forums with other students and applying everything I learned into my practicum. I have taught before, but teaching English is an extremely different experience than teaching US History.

How has your TEFL training helped you in your current teaching position?
I could not have done my English teaching job without the grammar manual and lessons that we shared and created in my TEFL class. Before I left the States, I was teaching English to elementary school children so I was able to start immediately with beginners and truly find my teaching-English style. 

Which city and country did you decide to teach English in and why?
I decided to teach English in Florence, Italy.

How long have you been teaching English in Italy and how long do you plan to stay?
Since September 2012 and will be here until June 2013. I am returning to Croatia for summer 2013 to work at an English Language Camp.

How did you secure your English teaching job in Italy?             
I emailed schools and employers at the end of August letting them know about my arrival. The day after I landed in Italy, I personally delivered my CV to schools and introduced myself to potential employers. I then followed up with an e-mail the next week.

What school, company, or program are you working for?
I work for Instituto American in Firenze. I also substitute at other institutions, do free-lance lessons for other universities, and have private lessons with locals.

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How did you get your work visa? If you didn't get a work visa, please elaborate on working under the table without a work visa.
It is very difficult/almost impossible to get a work visa to teach English in some European countries. If you want to work here in Italy legally you have two options as an American:

1) File for EU citizenship through your parents/grandparents heritage.

2) Get a student visa. (this allows you to legally work a certain number of hours while classified as a student).

I enrolled in Italian classes at Parola Scuola in Florence. They gave me the paperwork for a student visa and the US Embassy in NY granted me one (be careful, because not all Embassies will give you a student visa - even if you have all the paperwork!) I am legally allowed to work here 20 hours a week on a student visa.

Some people come here on a normal tourist visa and just stay beyond the given 3 months. Since there is such a high supply of English teachers here, schools are more weary of hiring teachers without proper paperwork. Schools in bigger cities, like Milan and Rome, are more likely to hire someone on an expired tourist visa. 

Tell us about your English teaching job in Italy!
My schedule is constantly changing. Some weeks I work 30 hours a week, other weeks 15. Unless a school gives you a solid contract of 20-25 hours a week, you will probably have to supplement your hours with other lessons. Schools pay between 12-15 euro per hour. For private lessons you usually charge 20 euro per hour.

I have not saved much but I do live off of what I make from my English teaching job without having to take out money from my US Bank accounts (except for my first month here with start-up costs, rent, etc. ) I also travel a lot so my money goes toward that.

I teach children, university students, high school students and adults. All levels as well. The varied groups keep my weeks fun and busy!

We have all the typical holidays off - in Italy Christmas and Easter break are the longer ones.

Hiring season begins at end of September. Most job contracts last until June. In the summer, most families and Italians leave for vacation. There are a lot of summer camps in Italy if you are looking for summer work.

How did you find somewhere to live and what is it like? Do you have roommates?  
My Italian Language school set up my housing when I first arrived. Rent was 500 euro a month, own bedroom, everything included, and I was right in the city center. I enjoyed this apartment but since my roommates were other classmates, the turn-over rate was high. I stayed there for 3 months and then moved to another apartment in the same neighborhood. I pay 450 a month for rent now (own room, queen size bed) but pay for utilities, which is about 30 euro a month.

I have one roommate who I met through a friend and she also teaches English! My living arrangement has worked out perfectly! 

Please explain the cultural aspects, public transportation, nightlife, social activities, food, expat community, dating scene, travel opportunities, etc. about your country:
Italy is the country of food and wine! You must learn to love Italian time (there is a 15-20 minute window of arriving late to lessons or appointments). Italians have perfected the aperitivo as well - which is a great solution to a cheap meal! You pay for one drink and get to eat from the buffet that is filled with delicious tuscan cuisine! Wine is cheaper than juice here as well.

Florence is the perfect location for traveling around Italy and Europe. You are only 1-2 hours away from the other major cities by train or a short plane ride. Unfortunately, rail tickets can be quite expensive but there are buses to the cities as well. The cheapest flights to other countries usually fly out of Milan or Rome but you can also find good deals from Pisa.

There is a HUGE expat community here! There are tons of websites, newspapers, etc for expats and English teachers. You will create a great bond with your coworkers and they will help you out tremendously.

The nightlife is great here. Tons of bars, pubs, cafes, lounges, or clubs - whatever type of outing you prefer, you will find! There is a large community of Americans here as well because of the study abroad programs here (the only downside).

Florentines are bit more exclusive on the social scene. This is understandable because countless foreigners invade their city, study or work for 6-12 months and leave. So if you are looking to become friends or involved with the locals, it takes more time than you think.

You can teach English in Italy with a TEFL Ceritfication

How would you describe your standard of living?        
Similar to America. I have everything I need.

In your opinion, how much does someone need to earn in order to live comfortably?
800-1000 euros a month. 

What advice would you give someone planning or considering teaching abroad? Would you recommend teaching English in Italy?
Definitely go for it! It is a once in a lifetime opportunity.

Do not let fear of failure or lack of money stop you. If you want it badly enough, you will make it happen. The hardest step is buying the ticket to leave, everything after that falls into place if its meant to be.

If you come to Italy, you need to be proactive when looking for a job. It is not as easy as Asia or the Middle East. Work hard, network, and talk out loud.


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